Tipping Point

With his new job at USA Today, ‘rapid-fire’ Tweets and new book, Nathan Bomey ’06 epitomizes today’s emerging newspaper journalist

Nathan Bomey
 Nathan Bomey 
Nathan Bomey

 Nathan Bomey 

Some believe love makes the world go ’round.

Not Nathan Bomey ’06.

The self-described news junkie believes competition does. Coke has Pepsi. GM, Toyota. UM, Ohio State. Bomey, News.

He loves competing for news. Craves it. Lives it. Crushes it. Tweets it, too. Constantly.

Bomey, who started in July June as a business reporter for USA Today, is helping to redefine the role of daily newspaper reporter. Today, like the newspapers they work for, reporters like Bomey are reinventing themselves, adapting to emerging digital demands to converge traditional journalistic ethics, knowledge and skills with the latest video, photography and social media tools to churn out fast and accurate news.

Twitter — faster than traditional wire services — is Bomey’s tool of choice.

“The news business has dramatically changed,” Bomey said. “Newspapers have declined significantly. What allows me to thrive is an entrepreneurial mindset of being willing to adapt to new ways of doing things without compromising my journalistic ethics. Willingness to adapt to social media gave me a big edge.”

Doubling Down

Bomey found journalism fascinating at Saline Middle High School. He loved reading about sports and politics and telling people something they did not know. Job shadowing at local newspaper The Milan News–Leader Saline Reporter in 2001 2000, while also writing for the student newspaper, earned him a slot as a as a student newspaper reporter for Saline High School’s Saline Reporter led him to become a freelancer at the paper's weekly publication. He was so good covering government council meetings and sports that Milan News–Leader The Reporter and The Milan News-Leader offered him a position as a 17-year old staff writer while he was still reporting news in high school. He accepted.

Following graduation, Bomey enrolled at Eastern Michigan University in September 2002 with a Regents Scholarship. He immediately joined The Eastern Echo student newspaper and worked his way up from reporter to senior staff writer, news editor, news manager and managing editor. He was voted the newspaper’s Most Valuable Player as a junior and senior.

“At The Echo, we had an incredible commitment to the student body and an understanding we are servicing serving students by reporting  about what is happening at EMU and the City of Ypsilanti,” said Bomey, who met his wife, Kathryn, at The Echo. “It’s so important for students to be well informed and perform this crucial public service.”

His first published college newspaper story focused on plans to construct the new student union. Bomey looks back fondly on how those plans became the EMU Student Center, which opened in November 2006. “It is such an immaculate facility today,” he said. “To remember it from the conceptual stage and see how it unfolded is pretty cool.”

It didn’t take long for Bomey to fall in love with what he calls the EMU work ethic.

“At EMU, nothing is handed to us,” he said. “We need to work a little bit harder and put in a little extra to get ahead. My academic experience was crucial because it gave me the perfect intersection of stories I covered later. At EMU, actual professors teach you. Eastern gives you a chance to get ahead. The opportunity to earn a paycheck in my field gave me a huge head start. In journalism, actual practical experience is crucial.”

Strictly Business

After graduating summa cum laude in 2006 with a BS in political science and journalism, Bomey joined the Ann Arbor Business Review. There, he learned to adapt, covering startups, technology companies and venture capitalists as associate editor and reporter for three years. In August 2009, he took a leap of faith and joined a new startup company, AnnArbor.com, as a business editor and reporter and later business editor. He covered the Michigan economy, technology companies and the intersection of politics with business, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s campaign and administration, appearances by President Barack Obama, the collapse of bookstore chain Borders, and the aftermath of the closure of Pfizer’s research and development campus. “It was a fascinating and rewarding experience,” Bomey said. “It was the precipice of a huge change for the industry. The leading edge. Reporters for the first time were responsible for shooting their own videos, writing their own stories and posting on social media.”

In March 2012, Bomey’s career took a major upswing when he joined the Detroit Free Press as a reporter. His primary beat was General Motors. He covered the rise of CEO Mary Barra, the politicization of GM’s comeback during the 2012 presidential campaign, the U.S. government’s equity stake in GM, new products, live events, such as the Shanghai and Detroit auto shows, quarterly earnings, sales reports, and trend stories.

“This was a premier opportunity,” he said. “The Free Press is Michigan’s leading news outlet and GM is one of Michigan’s leading companies, on of the most significant companies in the world. It was a fascinating challenge to learn about GM. It’s a very complex company. With more than 100 public relations people and so many national and international reporters covering GM., I loved that competition. It keeps you sharp.”

Story of a Lifetime

Bomey became the Free Press’ lead reporter on Detroit’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy, developing a broad network of sources on a fast-paced, competitive national story with historic implications. He uncovered details of secret mediation talks, explained complex restructuring negotiations, delivered a steady pace of exclusive breaking news and tracked filings and hearings. Along with Free Press business reporter John Gallagher, he conducted a three-month investigation of the city’s financial collapse, co-writing a critically acclaimed report, “How Detroit went broke,” and co-authored a capstone piece, “How Detroit was reborn.”

Bomey wrote a book about Detroit’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy, Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back. The hardcover version published April 25, 2016, by New York-based W.W. Norton & Co. Detroit Resurrected chronicles the saga of Detroit’s crash into insolvency and the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, with profound implications for law, politics, finance, art and philanthropy.

His gripping narrative on the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history is based on numerous exclusive original interviews and a review of tens of thousands of public documents and exclusive records.

“We looked into the depths of the city’s financial records,” Bomey said. “Tracking the city’s decline, we found (former Detroit Mayor) Kwame Kilpatrick’s corruption was a huge contributor, but it was his financial mismanagement that hastened the city’s decline into bankruptcy. So many people focus on the contraction of the auto industry and racial tensions, but I conclude in the book after a half-century of economic contraction, mismanagement and disinvestment, Detroit had morphed from a municipal services provider into a retiree benefits supplier. Most cities in America spend money on safety and social services. Detroit was spending an extraordinary portion of its budget on retiree pensions, benefits and Wall Street debt. The municipality had failed citizens.

“The story of Detroit’s financial collapse is an unbelievable story and forces us to rethink what we believe about democracy, reevaluate good governance, reconsider policy stances and challenges the political status quo.”

Emerging through bankruptcy in 2014, Detroit put the focus back on its citizens and off retiree debt and creditors, according to the book.

“Detroit Resurrected illustrates in vivid detail how taking the politically convenient route is a recipe for broken promises a long way down the road,” Bomey said. “It is also a hopeful story about how the City of Detroit finally put its people before its creditors and made the tough decisions necessary to have a second chance at life. Make no mistake: Detroit is still on a very long road to renewal. The city’s leaders still have many obstacles ahead. But I’m hopeful Detroit is finally on a sustainable path.”

Going Green

Tapping his business reporting roots and love of politics, Bomey’s career soared higher when he joined USA Today as a business reporter in July 2015. His work can be regularly viewed in the newspaper’s money Money or “green” section, covering “rapid-fire” business news with an emphasis on the automotive industry, corporate earnings, regulatory developments and market issues. He delivers enterprise stories, including a recent explanatory package on Big Tobacco profits. His responsibilities include shooting, editing and anchoring video reports, recording podcasts and giving radio interviews. He monitors web metrics and maintains an active social media presence, especially, of course, on Twitter.

“It’s been an invigorating opportunity,” he said. “Rapid-fire breaking news reports, interviews, conference calls, social media, Volkswagen scandal, regulatory issues — all kinds of fascinating stories. I enjoy collaborating with a terrific team. We are very fast and accurate. USA Today business readers hold us to a higher standard. We have a huge readership. Everything you do is magnified. Everything is on a bigger scale and I love it.”

‘Reporter’s Reporter’

EMU professors and colleagues paint Bomey as a “reporter's reporter” — easy to get along with, always willing to dig a little deeper, work a little longer to get the whole story and a shining example of what a journalist needs to be today.

Detroit Free Press Business Reporter John Gallagher calls Bomey a great colleague who leaves his ego out of his work.

“It was a marvelous experience working with him on Detroit’s bankruptcy,” Gallagher said. “He went through 50 years of city records, thousands of pages, and watched the federal filings minute by minute. That’s how meticulous he was about his reporting. He has a great sense of humor and was the complete package from the beginning. He has great energy and is marked for great things ahead.”

Amalie Nash, executive editor and vice president for news and engagement, The Des Moines Register, jokes Bomey “career-stalked” her over the years. He worked at the Saline Reporter after she left, came to AnnArbor.com after she was there and then came to the Detroit Free Press while she was there.

“Nathan has always been wise beyond his years,” Nash said. “He’s the type of journalist who raises his hand to be involved in a huge story like Detroit’s bankruptcy and holds things close to the vest in a way few journalists can — we’re a nosy, gossipy profession. Yet he managed to keep it a secret when he was writing a book on the Detroit bankruptcy. His maturity and professionalism have always been impressive. He’s a talented, forward-thinking journalist — exactly the type we need right now as our industry continues to transform.”

EMU Journalism Professor Carol Schlagheck says Bomey quickly adapted to the fast pace of a multi-media field dominated by social media.

“He's bright, tenacious, fair, hard working and multi-talented,” she said. “Nathan is attracted to the kinds of stories others might consider dull or difficult. Then he shows us why they are important. Nathan is a thorough reporter and always concerned with accuracy. He is a young man of impeccable integrity and ethics.”

Schlagheck appreciates how Bomey gives back to EMU.

“He has come back to EMU numerous times to speak to our students and help them prepare for journalism careers,” she said. “We are extremely proud of Nathan.”

Geoff Larcom, executive director, EMU Media Relations, says Bomey is very intelligent, talented and a lot of fun.

“Nathan had a highly engaged and phenomenal experience as an EMU student journalist, during which he developed exceptional analytical talents that he uses in his profession today,” Larcom said. “Colleagues, peers and sources enjoy working with him and admire his body of work.”

Jeff Bernstein, professor, EMU Department of Political Science, remembers  there was always a newspaper in front of Bomey when he walked into class.

“I joked with him and said ‘newspapers are dead,’ and he said ‘not if I have anything to do with it,’” Bernstein said. “Nathan was a fantastic student who reflected the values of being a journalism student and knowing how to write and also having subject expertise. He knew politics, the political world and political realities. It was an absolute honor when he gave a lecture here on Detroit’s bankruptcy. He’s so smart and a great, nice, kind individual. Extraordinary talent. So clear how good he was and is, and so clear he’s going to the top of his field.”

Get Social

Bomey’s best advice for budding journalists is to learn to do it all.

“You need to have a great handle on digital media, including Twitter and Facebook, focus on traditional journalistic skills and develop a network of sources,” he said. “The need to tell stories and report news will never change. Journalism principles haven’t changed. The tools have. It’s an industry that demands we understand social media, do radio interviews, create videos and post it all. You have to be willing to add new skills. You have to be willing to shoot a video clip, file live clips, post on Twitter and write a story as well. Social and digital media have changed how we report information to the public. Explaining news quickly and accurately is crucial today.”

By Theodore G. Coutilish

Nathan Bomey

Current Job: Business reporter for USA Today

Job Function: Cover “rapid-fire” business news with an emphasis on the automotive industry, corporate earnings, regulatory developments and market issues, deliver enterprise stories, shoot, edit and anchor video reports, record podcasts, give radio interviews, and maintain active social media presence

Age: 31
Hometown: Saline, Mich.
Currently Living: Arlington, Va.
Education: BS, Political Science and Journalism, EMU College of Arts and Sciences, graduated summa cum laude
Graduated from EMU: April 2006

Favorite EMU Professor: “Carol Schlagheck is an amazing professor who truly cares about her students and invests in their lives. She’s emblematic of the heart of EMU.”

Enjoys: Softball, golf, tennis, watching sports, Tigers, Green Bay Packers, writing, social media, reading

Martial Status: Married to Kathryn Bomey ’07 since October 2007

Something Few Know: Bomey lost 60 pounds during his freshman and sophomore years at EMU going Old School: Counting calories and exercising three times a week at the Rec/IM. He calls it the “Freshman Negative 60!”

Top Honors:

  • EMU Outstanding Young Alumni Award (2015)
  • Society of Professional Journalists Detroit Young Journalist of the Year (2015)
  • Society of American Business Editors and Writers Best in Business first place
awards for Features (2015) and Explanatory Journalism (2014) for Detroit bankruptcy stories
  • State Bar of Michigan Wade H. McCree Award for the Advancement of Justice (2015)